What is Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is the understanding that words are made up of smaller parts such as syllables and sounds. Children typically begin to acquire phonological awareness in the early years and continue to develop these once they start school.

Research shows that certain phonological awareness skills are predictive of a child’s future literacy ability.

Children who have phonological awareness:

  • understand that words are made up of sounds (e.g. d-o-g)
  • understand that sounds can be blended together to make sounds (e.g. d-o-g says dog)
  • can use letter sound knowledge to learn to read
  • can use letter sound knowledge to blend sounds to make words
  • can break words into syllables
  • can say rhyming words
  • can say the beginning sound in a word
  • can say each sound in a word
Why is it important to teach phonological awareness to children?
Children who lack phonological awareness are disadvantaged when learning to read. Phonological awareness can be easily taught and studies have found it to be beneficial for most children and critical for some.

What is the evidence?

Research shows us that teaching children to manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in language helps to learn to read. This remains true under a variety of teaching conditions and with a variety of learners across a range of grade and age levels. Training is beneficial for beginning readers from 4 years of age.

In the US, the National Reading Panel concluded that teaching phonemic awareness to children significantly improves their reading when compared to instruction without any attention to phonemic awareness. Specifically, the results of experimental studies led the Panel to conclude that phonological awareness training led to improvement in students’ phonemic awareness, reading, and spelling (NRP, 2001).

The evidence suggests that teaching less complex phonological awareness skills such as rhyming may facilitate more complex skills.

The relationship between phonological awareness and reading is reciprocal in nature. For example (a) the reason to teach first sound comparison is to draw attention to the fact that words have sounds as well as meaning and (b) instruction in letter sound correspondence can strengthen phonological awareness.

Teacher and student participating in a Phonological Awareness activity

Aligned with Curriculum

Sounds Good to Me is aligned with the Australian Early Years Learning Framework

Outcome 5Children are effective communicators
Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes

  • Children engage with a range of texts and gain meaning from these texts
    • Listen & respond to sounds and patterns in speech, stories & rhymes
    • Sing jingles and rhymes
    • Teachers should talk explicitly about concepts such as rhyme & letters & sounds
    • Role play being literacy users
    • Teachers should provide materials and join in with children’s play
    • Begin to understand key literacy concepts such as the sounds of language, letter-sound relationships, concepts of print
  • Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media
  •  Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work
  • Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas   and represent their thinking Sounds Good to Me is aligned with Te Whariki- Early Childhood Curriculum in New Zealand

    Children are strong and effective communicators

  • Recognising print symbols and concepts and using them with enjoyment, meaning and purpose
    • “Use of a large vocabulary and complex syntax, awareness of sounds in words, rhythm and rhyme, recognition of some letters and print concepts and interest in story telling in one or more languages and in reading and writing.
    • “an understanding that symbols can be ‘read’ by others and that thoughts, experiences and ideas can be represented as words, pictures, numbers, sounds, shapes, models and photographs in print and digital formats”.